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A spitting image of what ails Bengal’s education
- Teacher-cum-Trinamul councillor sprays inspector’s face with spittle for refusing to accept demands

Siliguri, June 8: Day’s lesson from a schoolteacher to Bengal’s children: if you disagree with someone, spit on his face.

Ranjan Sil Sharma, secretary of a teachers’ association, puckered his mouth and squirted betel juice into the face of the district inspector of schools, Siliguri, today. Once, twice, thrice. In full view of journalists and TV camera crews.

The man taught the immediate lesson, Riazul Islam, had refused to endorse the association’s demands relating to transfers and promotions.

The attack, which left Islam’s face spattered with tiny red splotches, took place at the schools inspector’s office. It came a day before the Centre, which has marked education down as a key engine for the country’s progress, attempts to clear 390 higher education institutions.

Sil Sharma, secretary of the Trinamul Congress-backed Bengal Primary School Teachers Association, is Trinamul councillor in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation. He also teaches students through Class I to Class IV —“almost all the subjects taught in these classes”, he said — at the Netaji Government-Sponsored Free Primary School in Siliguri’s Subhaspalli.

Sil Sharma had led a team of 20 association members to Islam’s office around 12.30pm with a list of demands. When the official refused to put his initials on the list, an angry exchange broke out that ended 20 minutes later with Sil Sharma’s heroics. The teachers walked out around 1pm.

Day’s lesson No. 2: when caught red-handed, keep denying.

“Not one among us who met the district inspector did any such thing,” Sil Sharma said.

“None of us misbehaved. He (Islam) is levelling false allegations,” he insisted even after reporters told him they were there and saw him spit. The media had been tipped off by Sil Sharma about a possible showdown at Islam’s office.

The schools inspector did not get up from his seat till the teachers had left. He then rang up his seniors to complain about the “atrocities committed by people engaged in a noble profession”.

“Such behaviour is not expected from teachers. They should face severe action. You all are witness,” he told the reporters.

Islam has filed a police complaint against Sil Sharma and two other association members, Shikha Chatterjee and Anukul Dutta.

School education joint secretary Sukumar Mahapatra said Sil Sharma could be punished “but we must find out if he is guilty and if there was provocation”. He said the maximum punishment could be suspension, whose duration would depend on the “gravity” of the crime.

The Trinamul district chief said: “I have asked two senior district leaders to find out about the incident and submit a report to me. Being a responsible political party, we shall definitely take steps against anyone found guilty.”

The association, though backed by Trinamul, is not affiliated to it. Most of its senior officials, however, are Trinamul members.

Biswajit Bhowmik, chairman of the district primary council, a government body that regulates appointments in primary schools, called a news conference to condemn Sil Sharma’s act.

“This is absolutely unacceptable coming from teachers. We have received a complaint from the district inspector and will forward it to higher authorities. The charges are very serious,” he said, adding that Islam told him the teachers had used filthy language.

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